I was watching the “Back to the Future” marathon over Christmas. I found myself immersed in the second one – the ridiculously confusing shitshow in which something has to be done about Marty’s kids, so they go to the future, and then back to the past, and the present and then the future and Marty still gets so heated when Biff calls him yellow. I was riveted not because it’s incomprehensible because Marty’s future, the year 2015, is only a year away from our present time.
How insane! I thought. We’re finally at the point when we can see how many of the quarter-century old predictions came true. Gale and Zemeckis, the screenplay writers, were spot-on in many areas. The architecture tends towards sleekness and dark colors, trees and manicured sidewalks dominate the downtown part of Spring Valley, fashion is a mix of denim, leather, and exaggerated eighties throwback, and there’s a voice that talks to you when you walk into the shopping center that sounds eerily like Siri.
However, one thing that these guys got totally wrong was transportation in the future. In the movie, they’re all zipping around via air-permeating tunnels with blue lights, moving way faster than they used to in the eighties. Cars are really shiny and, most importantly, there are Hoverboards.
I thought of this movie, and the greivious prediction errors made with regards to human potential for mobility in the new millennium, on minute 26 of waiting for the uptown A train on Friday. It was about 6:45 pm, rush hour, not the weekend, and not a snowstorm. No political figures had been assassinated, no suicides attempted. The train was just running fucking slow as shit. Again.
I must have had a Capital L Look on my face, because an off-duty MTA employee came up to me.
“Where you headed?” He asked.
“Up,” I said.
“You should probably take the D.”
I chose not to tell my new friend how much I wanted to take the D, that it’s almost been a month without the D and I’d pretty much ride the D wherever it was headed, even the Bronx, but I didn’t. Instead, I walked my bored ass down another level, and waited, as so many women have, for the D to come. It took seven minutes, which is unfortunately pretty average.
I understand that on an island as tiny as Manhattan, with such a large number of people riding the subway, you’re bound to have delays. I also understand that Hurricane Sandy ravaged many stations, and that, say, a ruined part of the track in Queens can indeed still be having an impact on how frequently a train gets to West 4th Street. I expect a little wait. But what I do not understand is how every single day, something inhibiting, dangerous, or just plain annoying goes down on the train.
Homeless people – sad. Bums on the train – horrible. A bum who has slung himself across five seats at 9 am clutching a Bud Light does not evoke sympathy or a desire to donate money; rather, he makes me want to risk getting tetanus in order to wrench the can from his bummy grip so he can’t even get the nickel deposit back.
2) Sick People
Does anyone else notice that health emergencies on the train only ever happen at 59th Street? What’s that about? Do tourists just get so excited at the thought seeing the Plaza that they have a heart attack in the train? Do businesspeople heading to the office AGAIN try to off themselves by slamming their head on the swinging single seat near the front car? Are Hispanic immigrants doing some self-immolation thing in protest of the statue of Columbus? Honestly. I’ve never had a train stop for medical reasons at Astor Place, at 157th, at the stop for the Guggenheim.
The asshole who refuses to wait for the next train and makes the door jam for seven minutes while he tries to cram himself, his guitar, his Jansport backpack, and his iPad (which he’s holding in his hands) into a car that’s teeming with livid passengers. The woman with a rocket-ship-stroller who takes up an entire four seat bench like she’s the first bitch to have a kid on a metro. People who clearly just exercised doing their post-workout stretches by using the poles and the walls of the 2. Those guys who pretend like they’re street thugs, just feeling the music by singing out loud waaaaay too audibly, but secretly just want to get discovered so they can pay back their NYU loans. Those cretins who never carry tissues but constantly have a runny nose. Chronic throat clearers. Public eaters of fast food.
4) Train Traffic
Ubiquitous train traffic simply makes no sense when juxtaposed with the 10-20 minute waits. Something is afoot.
I got a summons in November for jumping the turnstile. I did it because every single machine was broken or only accepting coins. This is not Diagon Alley, where people have pockets full of coins; it’s New York, where everyone pays with a card. I was tipsy, I was mad, and I wanted to go home. I got caught, and I got fined $100. People shit in the train. The fine for shitting in the train is $50. Had I known this, and really wanted to stick it to the MTA, I should have shat in the train. Twice. Also, people shit in the train way too frequently. It should just never happen. It should also cost more than a hop, skip, and jump.
I read a Letter to the Editor in the amNY the other day; there’s been an ongoing discourse about performers in the subway cars. People HATE the dancers and musicians who hone their craft and try to make a couple of bucks by entertaining you on your commute. “They’re loud!” say the detractors. “They’re dangerous – feet flying everywhere!” claim the naysayers. These people also kvetch about litter: “I see people flinging their detritus onto the third rail, where it could easily start a FIRE!” People, if the biggest problem you have with this transport system is a couple of high school kids flipping around, or coffee cups on the tracks, I envy your commute. That means you don’t spend nearly enough time in transit to give you the right to complain.
I suppose one day I’ll finally snap. I’ll be charged $4.65 for a single ride, and eighteen stations will be undergoing construction, and I’ll be forced to take a free shuttle bus, and someone will have shit on all the seats, and I’ll just hail a cab to JFK and never come back. But until then, I’m praying that someone will invent a Hoverboard. We still have one more year.